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Christ has implications in today's politics

{mosimage}Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (Zondervan, 355 pages, softcover, $19.99).

If Christianity isn’t radical, isn’t subversive, isn’t dangerous and can’t get you into trouble it isn’t really following Christ. The established powers of Roman-occupied Palestine tortured and killed Jesus for a reason. It wasn’t because he was a safe, earnest, harmless reformer.

The progression of Orthodoxy

{mosimage}Encountering the Mystery: Perennial Values of the Orthodox Church by Patriarch Bartholomew I  (Doubleday, 254 pages, hardcover, $25).

Before reading Encountering the Mystery, I could not have told you the name of the patriarch of Constantinople, but still considered myself adequately informed about the history and practices of Orthodox Christianity. I understood the Orthodox Church to be truly ancient in both the commendable and the less welcome senses of the term — faithfully continuing the apostolic tradition in a way that has avoided innovation for many centuries.

Finding grace in the meal

Paula ButturiniTORONTO - For Paula Butturini, 15 years of continuous tragedies were countered by moments of unexpected grace and solace found in the rituals of preparing and sharing food around the dinner table.

In her book Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food and Healing in Italy, published this year by Riverhead Books, Butturini bounces the reader between a series of brutal, gut-wrenching events and peaceful, heartwarming stories that centre around food and fellowship — a gripping story of perseverance and hope.

A new look at international development

{mosimage}Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail by Paul Polak (BK Currents, hardcover, 232 pages, $32).

Paul Polak is convinced he has found the solution to help some 800 million dollar-a-day farmers climb out of poverty. So, he wrote a book about it for all to learn: Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail.

Clear answers in the moral chaos

{mosimage}Bioethics Matters: A Guide for Concerned Catholics, by Moira McQueen, (Novalis, 105 pages, softcover, $9.95).

Pope John Paul II accomplished many things as pontiff, but one of the most important for the long term is clarity — something Benedict XVI has also worked at to good effect.

New volume explores church's shameful past

{mosimage}Catholics and Slavery: A Compromising History by John Perry (Novalis, soft cover, 204 pages, $24.95).

We live in a world in which the human rights of a large majority are trampled daily. This world did not emerge from nothing, and Christians are part of this history.

Through much of its history the Catholic Church condoned, promoted, supported and engaged in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Jesuit John Perry’s account of this in Catholics and Slavery is comprehensive and unflinching. He believes the church was part of the problem in its complicity in slavery, but has remade itself as part of the solution.

Into the future, darkly

{mosimage}Emerging from the Dark Age Ahead: The Future of the North American Church, by Charles Fensham (Novalis, softcover, 226 pages, $24.94 list).

If Donald Rumsfeld was good for anything, it was savage mockery of pessimistic liberals. “Henny Penny the sky is falling,” he once jeered to their flagellations. “Sometimes even liberals themselves tire of liberal negativity.”

The planetary secrets of C.S. Lewis

{mosimage}Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Michael Ward (Oxford University Press, 347 pages, hardcover, $31.95).

Planet Narnia is one of the most creative works of scholarship I have read since I fled the murky world of graduate studies in English literature. Michael Ward sets before us one of the great mysteries of C.S. Lewis studies, i.e. what is the underlying unity among the seven Narnia stories, and solves it. It’s the kind of thing that makes a rival PhD student throw her laptop across the room and take to drink. Ward has made a brilliant discovery.

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No getting to know Merton here

{mosimage}Thomas Merton: Hermit at the Heart of Things, by J.S. Porter. (Novalis, softcover, 216 pages, $24.95, ISBN Number 9782896460083).

Thomas Merton was an American poet and writer who died accidentally at the age of 56 in 1968 after a remarkably public life (especially for a Trappist monk).

Learning God's plan along Field of Stars

{mosimage}To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, softcover, 271 pages $19.99).

In the opening pages of his book, priest and author Fr. Kevin Codd dedicates his words to his mother and father, “who taught me how to walk.” Whether this is in gratitude or accusation for the anguished steps that would follow 50 years later when he walked the almost-800 kilometres to Santiago de Compostela is for the next 270 pages to reveal. But what is immediately apparent is that Codd’s parents have, in fact, taught him how to walk and write — an essential combination for his pilgrimage.

When the extroverts struggle with faith

Spirituality For Extroverts by Nancy Reeves (Abingdon Press, softcover, 155 pages, $10.99).

As an introvert, I’ve always carried the unexamined  bias that religion is largely the domain of introverts.

Of course this is a fallacy, and Nancy Reeves has written Spirituality For Extroverts to rehabilitate the reputation of non-introverts. Reeves is just the person for the task. She is not only a clinical psychologist and spiritual director, but also an extrovert herself.